Syracuse newest No. 1 seed in latest NCAA bracket projection

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Syracuse joins DukeOhio State and Kansas as projected No. 1 seeds in the first of our 2011 weekly bracket projections here at NBCSports.com and Bracketville.  Over the next two months, the Orange figure to battle it out with Pittsburgh, Connecticut, and Georgetown for the Big East title.  The winner will most likely emerge as a top-seed candidate.  Joining Pitt and UConn as two-seeds today are Kentucky and San Diego State. 

Remember, the NCAA tournament now features a new 68-team format. You will notice four matchups in the bracket that represent the First Four pairings. In this bracket the First Four games in Dayton would be … Drexel vs. Virginia Tech | Oklahoma State vs. Cleveland State | Jackson State vs. Sam Houston | American vs. Quinnipiac. The final four at-large teams are paired along with the teams seeded 65-68 on the S-curve.  Winners of these games advance to the Thursday-Friday sites.

Here are a couple of quick reminders … 1) The Bracket projection is not based solely on if the season ended today – particularly regarding predicted conference champions (listed in ALL-CAPS – exceptions being teams such as BYU that often go by an acronym.) The goal is to use the data we currently have and combine it with reasonable expections.  These expectations will change as teams build more complete resumes.  Expect a fair amount of change as we go through the first month of conference play. 2) Seeding is very fluid at this point.   There often isn’t much difference between a six and ten seed (now or in March). 

Note: Records reflect Division I wins and loses.  Games against D-II or D-III teams do not count for NCAA selection and seeding and thus aren’t considered here.

Next Update: Monday, January 10.


EASTNewark   SOUTHEASTNew Orleans
Charlotte   Cleveland
1) DUKE (13-0)   1) OHIO STATE (14-0)
16) JACKSONVILLE (7-3)   16) HAMPTON (10-3)   
8 Florida (10-3)   8 Louisville (11-2)
9) Baylor (9-3)   9) Florida State (11-3)
Tampa   Denver
5) Minnesota (11-3)   5) Kansas State (10-3)
12) OLD DOMINION (9-3)   12) Drexel / Virginia Tech
4) Villanova (12-1)   4) BYU (13-1)
13) OAKLAND (8-8)   13) NORTH TEXAS (11-2)
Denver   Charlotte
6) TEMPLE (9-3)   6) North Carolina (10-4)
11) Arizona (12-3)   11) Oklahoma St / Cleveland St
3) Missouri (13-1)   3) Georgetown (12-2)
14) KENT STATE (8-5)   14) CHARLESTON (9-5)
Washington, DC   Tampa
7) Wisconsin (11-3)   7) MEMPHIS (11-2)
10) Washington State (10-4)   10) WICHITA STATE (10-2)
2) Connecticut (11-1)   2) KENTUCKY (11-2)
15) PRINCETON (10-4)   15) VERMONT (9-3)
SOUTHWEST – San Antonio   WEST – Anaheim
Tulsa   Cleveland
1) KANSAS (13-0)   1) SYRACUSE (15-0)
8 BUTLER (9-4)   8 GONZAGA (9-5)
9) Boston College (11-3)   9) Tennessee (9-4)
Chicago   Tucson
5) Illinois (12-3)   5) Texas A-M (11-1)
12) Georgia (11-2)   12) West Virginia (8-4)
4) Notre Dame (12-2)   4) Michigan State (8-4)
13) MURRAY STATE (7-4)   13) UTAH STATE (13-2)
Chicago   Tulsa
6) Vanderbilt (11-2)   6) WASHINGTON (10-3)
11) Miami-FL (11-4)   11) St. John’s (9-3)
3) Purdue (13-1)   3) Texas (11-2)
14) COASTAL CAROLINA (8-2)   14) FAIRFIELD (9-3)
Washington, DC   Tucson
7) UNLV (12-2)   7) Central Florida (12-0)
10) St. Mary’s (10-2)   10) Cincinnati (14-0)
2) Pittsburgh (13-1)   2) SAN DIEGO STATE (13-0)
15) UC-SANTA BARBARA (5-5)   15) MONTANA (8-4)



NOTES on the BRACKET: Duke is the No. 1 overall seed followed by Ohio State, Kansas, and Syracuse. The two seeds in order are Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Kentucky, and San Diego State.

Last Five teams in (at large): West Virginia, Drexel, Cleveland State, Georgia, Oklahoma State

First Five teams out (at large): Dayton, New Mexico, USC, Richmond, Rhode Island

Also Considered: Xavier, Northwestern, UCLA, Missouri State, Mississippi, Iowa State, Southern Mississippi, Marquette, Maryland, George Mason, Providence, Portland, Arkansas, Virginia, UAB, UTEP

Bracket adjustments: Bracket actually flowed together without the need for seed-line adjustments. This doesn’t happen very often.

Here is the team breakdown by Conference …

Big East (9): SYRACUSE, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Villanova, Louisville, St. John’s, West Virginia

Big 12 (7): KANSAS, Missouri, Texas, Kansas State, Texas A-M, Baylor, Oklahoma State

Big Ten (6): OHIO STATE, Purdue, Michigan State, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin

ACC (6): DUKE, North Carolina, Boston College, Florida State, Miami-FL, Virginia Tech

SEC (5): KENTUCKY, Vanderbilt, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia

Mountain West (3): SAN DIEGO STATE, BYU, UNLV

Pac 10 (3): WASHINGTON, Arizona, Washington State

Colonial (2): OLD DOMINION, Drexel

Conference USA (2): MEMPHIS, Central Florida

West Coast (2): GONZAGA, St. Mary’s

Horizon (2): BUTLER, Cleveland State

Atlantic 10 (1): TEMPLE

Missouri Valley (1): WICHITA STATE

Auto Bid conference champions … Utah State (WAC), Murray State (OVC), Fairfield (MAAC), Kent State (MAC), Montana (Big Sky), Charleston (Southern), Oakland (Summit), UC-Santa Barbara (Big West), Quinnipiac (NEC), Jacksonville (Atlantic Sun), North Texas (Sun Belt), Princeton (Ivy), Coastal Carolina (Big South), Hampton (MEAC), American (Patriot), Vermont (America East), Sam Houston (Southland), Jackson State (SWAC)

VIDEO: Bill Simmons talks Ben Simmons on DP Show

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Ben Simmons will likely be the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, and possibly end up with the Celtics, making Boston sports junkie Bill Simmons very happy. Bill jokes about sharing a last name with a future NBA star.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR POWER RANKINGS: Kris Dunn still tops a strong list

Kris Dunn, D'Angelo Harrison
AP Photo
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1. Kris Dunn, Providence: I had Kris Dunn as the Preseason Player of the Year, and while he probably hasn’t been the best player in the country through four games — he hasn’t yet had a statement game on national television — he is averaging 18.8 points, 7.8 boards, 6.8 assists and 5.3 steals.

And while his shooting splits are down from a season ago, he only has eight turnovers through four games. I’m not going to drop my guy when he does that just because he hasn’t gotten into the meat of his schedule yet. No way.

I’ve charted the four games that Dunn has played to determine how much of Providence’s offensive runs through him, a stat I’m going to call, for lack of a better word, possessions “ended”.

When he’s on the floor, how many of Providence’s possessions ended with Dunn shooting, getting to the free throw line, turning the ball over, assisting on a bucket, assisting on free throws or assisting on a missed shot.

Through four games, 62.6 percent of Providence’s offense runs through Dunn, which is an insanely high number and a reason that his efficiency, and shooting percentages, are going to be lower than ideal.

Defenses know this.

Illinois had all five defenders in the paint trying to stop Dunn’s ball-screen actions:

(Screengrab via Synergy)
(Screengrab via Synergy)

His defender went over the screen while the man guarding the screener stayed with Dunn. The weak-side defender is in the lane helping on Ben Bentil’s role to the rim while the strong-side defender is helping on Dunn’s drive. Here’s video of the entire action:

2. Denzel Valentine, Michigan State: Valentine is almost averaging a triple-double this season. Seriously. He’s at 15.3 points, 9.8 assists and 9.0 boards through four games. That won’t last, but we can celebrate it while it does. He also is the own of the most impressive performance of the young season, going for 29 points, 12 boards and 12 assists in MSU’s come-from-behind win over Kansas in the Champions Classic.

And just to put Dunn’s numbers in perspective, Valentine “ended” 60.6 percent of Michigan State’s possessions against Kansas.

3. Ben Simmons, LSU: Since we keep talking about whether or not Ben Simmons is overrated, I think this is worth mentioning: He’s currently the leading rebounder in college basketball, averaging 14.5 boards to go along with his 19.3 points, 5.3 assists, 2.0 steals and 1.0 blocks. Oh, and he has just six turnovers in four games.

I’m not going to sit here trying to convince he’s not a great player. He is. Unquestionably. But there are a few things you need to understand when analysts and scouts try to temper the comparisons to LeBron James.

MORE: Transcendent? Overhyped? The shame is if Ben Simmons is irrevelant

Simmons spends a lot of time at the five for LSU, meaning that he is quite often guarded by guys like Luke Fischer, a 7-footer that doesn’t have a prayer of trying to slow down a player that big and that skilled in transition or in a half court setting:

He’s also a terrific passer, one that is so skilled at making defenses pay when the help defenders are too focused on him. Look at Traci Carter when Simmons throws this lob:

(Image via ESPN)
(Screengrab via ESPN)

That’s a direct result of the mismatches that he gets at the college level.

There are layers to this, too. The numbers you don’t hear with Simmons: he hasn’t even attempted a three-pointer this season. Through his first three games, he only shot five jump shots and missed all five. (Synergy’s logs haven’t been updated with last night’s games yet.) He’s shooting 81 percent from the line, so the stroke is there, but it has yet to manifest itself as part of his offensive repertoire.

Put it all together: NBA teams have guys that are big enough and quick enough to guard Simmons — especially if he doesn’t become a consistent shooter from the NBA three-point line — and while his passing ability rivals LeBron’s, he’s not as quick, explosive or athletic.

In simpler terms, Simmons won’t be exploiting mismatches in the NBA the way he can in college, and defenses won’t have to sellout to slow him down. That’s why I would rather see him compared to Lamar Odom, who, by the way, averaged 13.3 points, 8.4 boards and 3.7 assists in a 15-year career that produced two NBA titles and an appearance on a U.S. Olympic team.

He was damn good.

Comparing him to Odom is a compliment.

4. Tyler Ulis, Kentucky: The latest argument that seems to be clogging by mentions is whether or not Ulis or Dunn is the best point guard in the country. My take: Dunn is the best player in the country while Ulis is the best point guard in the country. While the two technically play the same position, the role they play is entirely different. Ulis is a facilitator, a pure point guard. Dunn is the prototype new-age lead guard, a guy built in the mold of Russell Westbrook, John Wall and MVP-era Derrick Rose.

Ulis has been OK in three of Kentucky’s four games, but his performance in the win over Duke — 18 points, six assists, four rebounds, two steals, no turnovers — is what got him this high on this list.

5. Grayson Allen, Duke: Allen has been unbelievable in four of the five games he’s played this season, including back-to-back 30-burgers as the Blue Devils beat VCU and Georgetown in the 2K Classic. Even with that putrid performance against Kentucky, his numbers look like this: 24.4 ppg, 4.4 rg, 3.2 apg and shooting splits of 52.2/53.6/89.7.

6. Tyrone Wallace, Cal: Only one player in college basketball averaged more than 20 points, five boards and five assists last season. This year, Wallace is averaging 20.3 points, 5.8 boards and 5.3 assists for a Cal team that could end up winning the Pac-12. He’ll climb this list if his numbers look as good when the competition gets tougher.

7. Sheldon McClellan, Miami: Picking a player on Miami for this spot was tough, but I decided to go with McClellan for a couple of reason. One: He’s Miami’s leading scorer at 17.4 points. Two: his shooting splits are outrageous (61.7/52.4/94.7) meaning his efficiency numbers are outrageous as well. Three: he’s the guy on that Miami roster that, if I was an opposing coach, I would build a game-plan around stopping.

8. Buddy Hield, Oklahoma: Hield was a first-team all-american entering the season and has scored 54 points in two games this year. He went for 30 in a win at Memphis. Not bad.

9. Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga: Kyle Wiltjer was the guy that was on all the preseason all-american lists, but through two (And a half? Does Pitt still count?) games this season, Sabonis has been Gonzaga’s best player. He’s averaging 20.5 points and 10.5 boards, scoring on post-ups and offensive boards and shooting a robust 82.6 percent from the floor.

10. Evan Bradds, Belmont: There are a number of guys deserving consideration for this spot — Demetrius Jackson, Melo Trimble, Shaq Harrison, Josh Hart — but I’m going to give Bradds a little love here. Through five games, he’s averaging 21.3 points, 8.6 boards and 2.4 assists while shooting 76.2 percent from the floor. He had 24 points and nine rebounds in Belmont’s win at Marquette and, in his last two games, is averaging 29 points and 10 boards while shooting 27-for-28 from the field. A run like that can’t last, but while he’s in the middle of it, we’re going acknowledge it.